Board of Trade (Second)

A postcard of Duluth’s 1895 Board of Trade building made between 1900 and 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)
301-307 West 1st Street | Architect: Traphagen Fitzpatrick (1905 remodel: Daniel Burnham| b. 1895 | Extant

The massive, seven story red sandstone and brick Romanesque Revival building that is the Duluth Board of Trade was in fact the fourth home for the Duluth Board and Trade since its founding in 1881. It was conceived and constructed in response to a fire that destroyed the third Board of Trade Building, located at Superior Street and Third Avenue West, on February 11, 1894. The local architecture firm of Traphagen and Fitzpatrick was selected immediately to develop a design, and $350,000 for the building’s construction was awarded to the northwestern contractor Butler-Ryan Co. in an attempt to rush the new building to completion. In 1905 Chicago architect Daniel Burnham was commissioned to design an addition on the north side and to redesign the Trading Room, which was relocated from the second to the seventh floor. The building is sited on a sloping lot on the northwest corner of the intersection of First Street and Third Avenue West, and has a footprint of 110 feet by 140 feet with the primary façade fronting onto First Street. A three-story base is constructed from Portage red sandstone laid in large smooth-faced blocks highlighted by intricate “East Indian” carvings executed by local mason George Thrana at the entries and the third floor. The primary façade on the south is broken into three large bays, and the central bay is filled by an imposing two-story half-round entry arch.

The second Duluth Board of Trade building. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

The original bronze doors and frames filled with amber opal glass were removed and replaced with new doors and windows, but the entry remains quite striking due to the delicate carving that covers the two concentric arches surrounding the opening. Above the arch head flies a stone banner reading “Board of Trade”, anchored by two torches executed in low relief. Two large arched openings appear at the third floor immediately above the banner, and are completely surrounded by a tapestry of abstracted lace-like designs. The entry doors lead into a vestibule lined with marbles and a mosaic floor constructed from tiny marble tesserae. The two flanking bays are devoted to storefront space, and are subdivided into three large rectangular openings by large stone piers that incorporate a frame of low-relief engaged partial columns. Historically the storefronts had cast iron frames with a two-light fixed transom separated by a cast engaged Doric column. Although these are still visible on a portion of the eastern façade, most of the windows and doors at this level, and across the exterior, have been replaced with new aluminum frame units many of which include a metal panel transom. A series of three two-story arched openings dominate the second and third floors, creating three window openings which are filled by tall narrow window pairs. The third floor windows are fitted within the arch heads, which are decorated with carving similar to that seen on the entry bay. A simple projecting stone string course caps the top of the base, and shows a high level of damage and deterioration.

A postcard of Duluth’s 1895 Board of Trade building made between 1900 and 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)

The fourth through seventh floors are plain by comparison, constructed from a buff salmon brick with matching terra cotta detailing. A three-story recess occupies the central bay and it is filled by two smaller half-round arched bays with window pairs and flat brick spandrel panels at each floor. A low bronze railing supported by a nine stone brackets enclosed a small balcony at the fourth floor level. As on the lower stories of the base, the outer bays are marked by simple flat piers that create three bays, each of which is filled by a window pair. The seventh floor appears to end rather abruptly at its upper edge, but this is due to the loss of the decorative projecting parapet in 1948 as the result of a fire in a neighboring building.

The secondary east façade is very similar in its arrangement and detailing, with the exception that the central bay is twice as wide and contains 6 window bays. In 1983 a skywalk was inserted into the central entrance bay at the level of the third floor, covering or altering the arched window opening at that location. Historic wood doors and decorative arched transoms survive at the main entry on this face.

From the National Register of Historic Places Registration for the Duluth Commercial Historic District prepared by Mike Koop of the Minnesota State Office of Historic Preservation, 2005.

A postcard of Duluth’s 1895 Board of Trade building made between 1900 and 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)


  • Koop, Michael. “National Register of Historic Places Registration for the Duluth Commercial Historic District.” Minnesota State Office of Historic Preservation, St. Paul: 2005.
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